As cold weather arrives, U.S. states see record increases in COVID-19 cases

By Lisa Shumaker

(Reuters) – Nine U.S. states have reported record increases in COVID-19 cases over the last seven days, mostly in the upper Midwest and West where chilly weather is forcing more activities indoors.

On Saturday alone, four states – Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin – saw record increases in new cases and nationally nearly 49,000 new infections were reported, the highest for a Saturday in seven weeks, according to a Reuters analysis. Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wyoming also set new records for cases last week.

New York is one of only 18 states where cases have not risen greatly over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis. However, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he is moving to shut non-essential businesses as well as schools in nine neighborhoods, starting on Wednesday. The lockdown would require the governor’s approval.

Health experts have long warned that colder temperatures driving people inside could promote the spread of the virus. Daytime highs in the upper Midwest are now in the 50’s Fahrenheit (10 Celsius).

Montana has reported record numbers of new cases for three out of the last four days and also has a record number of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals.

Wisconsin has set records for new cases two out of the last three days and also reported record hospitalizations on Saturday. On average 22% of tests are coming back positive, one of the highest rates in the country.

Wisconsin’s Democratic governor mandated masks on Aug. 1 but Republican lawmakers are backing a lawsuit challenging the requirement.

North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin have the highest new cases per capita in the country.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is one of several prominent Republicans who have tested positive for coronavirus since President Donald Trump announced he had contracted the virus.

Because of the surge in cases in the Midwest, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities operated by Aspirus in northern Wisconsin and Michigan are barring most visitors as they did earlier this year.

Bellin Health, which runs a hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, said last week its emergency department has been past capacity at times and doctors had to place patients in beds in the hallways.

The United States is reporting 42,600 new cases and 700 deaths on average each day, compared with 35,000 cases and 800 deaths in mid-September. Deaths are a lagging indicator and tend to rise several weeks after cases increase.

Kentucky is the first Southern state to report a record increase in cases in several weeks. Governor Andy Beshear said last week was the highest number of cases the state has seen since the pandemic started.

State health experts have not pinpointed the reason for the rise but point to fatigue with COVID-19 precautions and students returning to schools and colleges. Over the last two weeks, Kentucky has reported nearly 11,000 new cases and has seen hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients rise by 20%.

(Reporting by Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Exclusive: U.S. traffic deaths fell after coronavirus lockdown, but drivers got riskier

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. traffic deaths fell during the coronavirus lockdowns but drivers engaged in riskier behavior as the fatality rate spiked to its highest level in 15 years, a government report set to be released Thursday will show.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found the fatality rate jumped to 1.42 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the three months ending June 30, the highest since 2005.

At the same time, overall traffic deaths fell by 3.3% to 8,870 while U.S. driving fell by about 26%, or 302 fewer over the same period in 2019, according to the report reviewed by Reuters.

NHTSA’s study showed “drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

By contrast, the fatality rate for 2019 was just 1.10 deaths per 100 million miles, the lowest rate since 2014 as traffic deaths fell by 2% to 36,096.

Traffic data showed average speeds increased and extreme speeding became more common. Data from some states suggested that fewer people were wearing seat belts during the lockdown.

“In short, the stay-at-home orders may have led the population of drivers during the height of the health crisis to have been smaller but more willing to take risks,” NHTSA found.

NHTSA also noted that in the wake of the outbreak enforcement of some traffic laws was reduced. “It is possible that drivers’ perception that they may be caught breaking a law was reduced,” the report found.

NHTSA also said that since coronavirus risks are higher for older Americans, that could have minimized driving by more risk-averse drivers.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Pandemic ‘hero’ Filipino nurses struggle to leave home

By Karen Lema and Clare Baldwin

MANILA (Reuters) – From across the Philippines, they gathered to pray by Zoom.

They were praying to be allowed to leave: To be allowed to take up nursing jobs in countries where the coronavirus is killing thousands in hospitals and care homes. In recent months, these care workers have taken to calling themselves “priso-nurses.”

With infections also surging in the Philippines, the government in April banned healthcare workers from leaving the country. They were needed, it said, to fight the pandemic at home.

But many of the nurses on the two-hour Zoom call on Aug. 20, organised by a union and attended by nearly 200 health workers both in the Philippines and abroad, were unwilling to work at home. They said they felt underpaid, unappreciated and unprotected.

Nurses have been leaving the Philippines for decades, encouraged by the government to join other workers who send back billions of dollars each year.

With COVID-19 sweeping the globalized economy, the Philippine ban squeezed a supply line that has sent hundreds of thousands of staff to hospitals in the United States, the Gulf and Britain, where some commentators have called the nurses “unsung heroes” of the pandemic.

The Philippines’ healthcare system is already short-handed. In Germany there are 430 doctors and nurses per 10,000 people, in the United States 337 and in Britain 254, International Labor Organization data shows.

The Philippines – where the coronavirus death rate is one of the highest in Southeast Asia – has 65.

The April ban has stopped more than 1,000 nurses from leaving the country. Of those, only 25 have applied to work in local hospitals, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told journalists late last month. The Department of Health did not reply to a request for an updated figure.

The government has since partially eased the restrictions, but sometimes also tightens them, so nurses are still clamoring to get out.

On the Zoom call in August, someone played a recording of the Philippine national anthem. A Catholic priest prayed and a man with a soft voice crooned a song about passing off your burdens to God.

One nurse, 34-year-old April Glory, had already spent years away from her young son and had been about to leave again when the ban kicked in. Even before the pandemic, she told Reuters separately, she was better off in a war zone in the Middle East than at home.

Soon after she arrived in Yemen in 2011, a bullet pierced the wall of her private hospital, she said. Staff moved patients to safety.

Still, she said, “we were insured, we had free lodging so my salary was intact and I could send more to my family.” Abroad, there was no need to do any work outside her job description: “You are not expected to sweep the floor.”

SIMPLE MATH

It’s mainly money that drives the Filipinos abroad.

A nurse in the United States can earn as much as $5,000 per month; in the Middle East it’s $2,000 per month, tax free. In Germany, nurses can earn up to $2,800 per month, and get language training, labor organizers, recruiters and the Philippine government’s overseas employment agency say.

Even with its emergency hiring efforts, the Philippine Department of Health is only offering nurses a starting salary of $650 per month. It says it will pay another $10 per day as COVID-19 hazard allowance.

Private nurses sometimes make just $100 per month.

“I felt that I was not earning enough,” said Glory, explaining why she left. Her son, now 11, was a year and a half old at the time. “My mother told me: Better to leave now because my child will not really remember.”

Abroad, Glory’s shifts were a standard eight hours and she only looked after one or two patients at a time in intensive care. Working in Yemen and then Saudi Arabia, she said she bought a house and a car.

Nurses have recently left faster than they are trained. Last year, 12,083 new nurses graduated in the Philippines. That same year, 16,711 signed contracts to go abroad, data from the Commission on Higher Education and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration shows. Those renewing foreign contracts are counted separately. So far this year there have been 46,000 such renewals.

The Philippine government wasn’t able to provide figures for the total number of nurses overseas, or say which countries they are working in.

Filipinos are the biggest group of foreign nurses in the United States. In 2018, there were 348,000, an analysis of U.S. government data by Washington D.C.-based think tank Migration Policy Institute showed. Even with the pandemic, another 3,260 Filipinos have passed the U.S. nurse licensing exam this year.

A report to Britain’s House of Commons Library in May said more than 15,000 of the National Health Service nursing jobs held by foreigners went to Filipinos – nearly a third of the total and more than any other nationality. The NHS employs a further 6,600 Filipinos in other healthcare jobs.

Labor brokers say that, besides the UK and US, Filipino nurses are sought-after in Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

36-HOUR SHIFTS

Nine months into the pandemic in the Philippines, reported coronavirus infections in the Philippines have soared to around 270,000. Not all hospitals allow family members to visit, so nurses must feed and clean patients as well as giving health care, said Filipino Nurses United President Maristela Abenojar.

Some nurses are working up to 36-hour shifts because relief staff are calling in sick or not reporting for duty, she said, and sometimes nurses are issued just one set of protective gear per shift. Nurses can’t get tested regularly and if they get sick, there aren’t always hospital beds reserved for them, she said.

At least 56 healthcare workers have died in the Philippines, Department of Health data shows.

“It seems they don’t really value our contributions,” said Jordan Jugo, who works at a private hospital in the Philippines. “It hurts.” He had a contract to work in Britain, but the ban prevented him from leaving.

He said he could sometimes only eat two meals a day and could no longer support his siblings.

The Philippine Department of Health said its healthcare workers work long hours and “it is natural for them to feel tired and overwhelmed with their immense responsibilities.” It said it had arranged for “substitution teams” in some areas.

It said hospitals should provide sufficient protective gear and that healthcare workers should not go on duty without it. Healthcare workers should be prioritized for regular COVID-19 testing, it said, and the Department would ensure there are enough beds for everyone.

Health Secretary Duque has said previously that the government was appealing to the nurses’ “sense of nation, sense of people and sense of service.”

“I DON’T WANT TO BE A HERO”

Foreign countries have gone all-out to show Filipino nurses they are valued.

Saudi Arabia sent chartered planes to help them return to work, and only partly filled them so the nurses could maintain social distance.

British ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce went on an 11-minute segment on Philippine television to praise the “incredible commitment and dedication” of Filipino healthcare workers in Britain.

When nurse Aileen Amoncio, 36, got trapped by a lockdown and then the travel ban during a vacation to the Philippines in March, Britain’s NHS granted her a special “COVID leave” and kept paying her, she said. The NHS said staff stuck abroad due to COVID-19 could qualify for such leave.

Amoncio got out of the Philippines in June, after the government eased the ban slightly.

Working at an NHS neurological rehabilitation hospital in the UK, she said she sympathized with the nurses back home, where she once handled as many as 80 patients on a surgical ward at a small hospital. Now she looks after no more than 10 at a time.

Not only are the pay and conditions better in Britain, she said, but she also hopes her daughter will one day be able to join her and get free treatment on the NHS. The hearing implant she needs would cost $20,000 in the Philippines.

“I’ve served my country already,” said Amoncio. “I don’t want to be a hero again. I am looking out for the future of my children.”

On the Zoom call, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III dialed in with an update: Some of those who had existing contracts could leave, he announced. Cheers went up.

Nurse Glory was one of them. She wept.

“I hope the government will not take it against us that we are leaving,” she said. “We are looking forward to helping the government with this fight in other ways. When we are able, when we’ve risen out of poverty, we will.”

Hours later, on the pavement outside the airport, she quickly hugged her son, then raced to board her flight in case the government changed its mind.

(Additional reporting by Eloisa Lopez; Edited by Matthew Tostevin and Sara Ledwith)

IEA says oil demand recovery set to slow for rest of 2020

By Noah Browning

LONDON (Reuters) – The International Energy Agency (IEA) trimmed its 2020 oil demand forecast on Tuesday, citing caution about the pace of economic recovery from the pandemic.

The Paris-based IEA cut its 2020 outlook by 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 91.7 million bpd in its second downgrade in as many months.

“We expect the recovery in oil demand to decelerate markedly in the second half of 2020, with most of the easy gains already achieved,” the IEA said in its monthly report.

“The economic slowdown will take months to reverse completely … in addition, there is the potential that a second wave of the virus (already visible in Europe) could cut mobility once again.”

Renewed rises in COVID-19 cases in many countries and related lockdown measures, continued remote working and a still weak aviation sector are all hurting demand, the IEA said.

China – which emerged from lockdown sooner than other major economies and provided a strong prop to global demand – continues a strong recovery, while a virus upsurge in India contributed to the biggest demand drop since April, the IEA said.

Increasing global oil output and the downgraded demand outlook also mean a slower draw on crude oil stocks which piled up at the height of lockdown measures, it added.

The agency now predicts implied stock draws in the second half of the year of about 3.4 million barrels per day, nearly one million bpd less than it predicted last month, with July storage levels in developed countries again reaching record highs.

However, preliminary data for August showed industry crude oil stocks fell in the United States, Europe and Japan.

As output cuts eased among producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies such as Russia, global oil supply rose by 1.1. million bpd in August.

After two months of increases, recovery among countries outside the OPEC+ pact stalled, with production in the United States falling 400,000 bpd as Hurricane Laura forced shut-ins.

(Reporting by Noah Browning; editing by Jason Neely)

Amazon bucks UK labor market gloom with 7,000 new jobs

LONDON (Reuters) – Amazon brought a little cheer to Britain’s troubled labor market on Thursday, saying it will create a further 7,000 permanent jobs in 2020, taking total new hires this year to 10,000.

Last month the number of people in work in Britain suffered the biggest drop since 2009 and the coronavirus is expected to take a much heavier toll on unemployment when the government winds down its huge job-protection scheme.

The one bright spot however has come from online retail and logistics as orders surged during lockdown. Amazon’s latest recruitment will take its total UK workforce to over 40,000 by the end of the year.

The U.S. internet giant said the 7,000 new roles will be for warehouse workers, as well as engineers, HR and IT professionals and health and safety and finance specialists.

The jobs will be in over 50 sites, including two new distribution centers in the north east and central England and at corporate offices.

It said it needed more staff to meet growing customer demand for its services and to enable small and medium sized enterprises selling on Amazon to scale their businesses.

Amazon has also started recruiting for more than 20,000 seasonal positions across the UK for the festive period.

Last month the Confederation of British Industry said British retailers had cut the most jobs since the depths of the financial crisis and expected the pace of losses to accelerate.

Well-known British retailers Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Debenhams, WH Smith and Dixons Carphone have all announced job cuts in recent weeks, reflecting the rapid shift in demand to online sales.

Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket, said it would create 16,000 permanent roles to meet the surge in home deliveries.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton)

Lockdown, leftovers and how food frugality is a climate boon

By Christopher Walljasper and Nigel Hunt

CHICAGO/LONDON (Reuters) – Clint Parry ransacked every kitchen cupboard and scoured all corners of his fridge during lockdown in Detroit, hunting for lost ingredients and leftovers to whip up meals.

The 33-year-old is one of many people across the world to have embraced thriftiness and cut down on food waste during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to experts. They say the new habits, if maintained, will provide a major boost in tackling another global crisis: climate change.

“We are using virtually all of our leftovers, where we used to waste food because we would forget to pack it and just pick up fast food on a lunch break,” said Parry, who is married and works as a master model builder at Legoland in Michigan.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that a third of the world’s food is wasted every year. Forests are cleared, fuel is burnt and packaging in produced just to provide food which is thrown away. Meanwhile, rotting food in landfills releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

As a result, food waste is responsible for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a similar amount to road transportation.

“The next crisis will be the climate crisis and the best thing you can do as a consumer is reduce food waste,” said Toine Timmermans, program manager for sustainable food chains at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Household food waste in Britain, to take one country, fell significantly in the early phase of the lockdown in April with just 14% of four key items – bread, chicken, milk and potatoes – thrown away, according to research by environmental group WRAP, which conducted thousands of interviews.

Pre-lockdown, an average of 24% had been wasted.

Waste had begun to rebound by June, with a second WRAP survey putting waste of those products at 18%, but remained significantly below pre-lockdown levels.

“Although people are reporting wasting more food as restrictions lift … the positive news is that 70% of people want to maintain their new-found food management behaviors in the long term,” said Richard Swannell, director at WRAP Global which works with governments to reduce food waste.

“This is an encouraging sign that people are taking this opportunity to adopt less wasteful habits in life after lockdown.”

PLAN MORE, COOK MORE

Food security has been a major concern during the pandemic as consumers panic-bought basic goods, migrant workers struggled to get to the fields, meat-packing plants shut, and farm goods produced for shuttered restaurants rotted.

But the lower household food waste has been one bright spot.

Out of necessity, consumers have become more organized in planning menus, developed new cooking skills, checked their cupboards and fridges more before they shop and found better ways to use up leftovers, according to food waste experts.

“What people have been forced to do during the pandemic is plan ahead because they’re now shopping less frequently,” said Dana Gunders, executive director at ReFED, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing wasted food across the United States.

“They’re being forced to cook more and build those cooking skills.”

Laura Brooks, a stay-at-home mother of five in Weymouth, Massachusetts, said she had developed useful habits during the lockdown that she would keep.

“I think as things go back to normal, I may continue with less frequent shopping trips. When I go more often, I find that the new produce pushes the old produce out of sight and things get wasted more easily,” she added.

Increased frugality could prove a valuable habit in the economic and unemployment crisis caused by the pandemic; Gunders said a family of four in the United States was estimated to throw out food worth about $1,800 a year.

TOO GOOD FOR THE BIN

A survey from Germany’s Food and Agriculture Ministry also showed consumers had started to show more concern about wasting food during the coronavirus crisis.

The government had launched an anti-food waste campaign called “Too good for the bin” before the crisis, urging the public not to automatically throw food away after the sell-by date but to smell and taste it to see if it was still in good condition.

The ministry’s survey, undertaken during the pandemic, found that 91% of German consumers questioned were now checking food after its sell-by date and not automatically throwing it away.

This compared to only 76% in a similar survey in 2016.

Food waste is not restricted to the home but it is the biggest source in many countries.

The European Union has published a study estimating that 53% of food waste was in households and 11% in production, with the balance in areas such as processing and retailing.

China’s President Xi Jingping said this month that the amount of food wasted in China was “shocking”, prompting many local governments to launch related campaigns.

For Parry in Detroit, and many others, thrift is here to stay.

“Our food costs have definitely gone way down, since we are not buying out when we have perfectly consumable leftovers in the fridge at home,” he said.

(Reporting by Christopher Walljasper and Nigel Hunt; Editing by Veronica Brown and Pravin Char)

Global coronavirus cases hit 20 million: Reuters tally

By Gayle Issa

(Reuters) – Global coronavirus cases pushed past 20 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, with the United States, Brazil and India accounting for more than half of all known infections.

The respiratory disease has infected at least four times the average number of people struck down with severe influenza illnesses annually, according to the World Health Organization.

The death toll from COVID-19, meanwhile, at more than 728,000 has outpaced the upper range of annual deaths from the flu.

The Reuters tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating. It took almost six months to reach 10 million cases after the first infection was reported in Wuhan, China, in early January. It took just 43 days to double that tally to 20 million.

Experts believe the official data likely under counts both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity.

The United States is responsible for around 5 million cases, Brazil 3 million and India 2 million. Russia and South Africa round out the top ten.

The pandemic is accelerating fastest in Latin America which accounts for almost 28% of the world’s cases and more than 30% of deaths, according to the Reuters tally.

With the first wave of the virus yet to peak in some countries and a resurgence of cases in others, governments are still divided in their responses. Some countries are reintroducing strict public health measures, while others continue to relax restrictions.

Health experts expect dilemmas about how to proceed with school, work and social life to last – and restrictions to fluctuate – until a vaccine is available.

The vaccine race has more than 150 candidates being developed and tested around the world with 25 in human clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization.

In the United States, children began returning to their classrooms last week, even as controversy over school safety swirled.

Britain has added both Spain and Belgium to a list of countries from which returning travelers must quarantine at home for 14 days because of fresh upticks in some European locations.

In Asia, China continues to squash surges using strict, local lockdowns, bringing its daily numbers down into the low double digits on the mainland.

Australia has introduced a strict lockdown and night curfew in the city of Melbourne, aiming to stifle an outbreak there. Neighboring New Zealand, where life has largely returned to normal, on the weekend recorded 100 days with no new cases of local transmission.

(Reporting by Gayle Issa; editing by Jane Wardell)

Fauci doesn’t think U.S. will have to go back into “shutdown mode”

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Top U.S. infectious disease official Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that he doesn’t think the United States will have to go back into “shutdown mode” in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“We can do much better without locking down,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at an event hosted by Harvard University. He said Americans should wear masks, keep physically distanced, shut down bars, wash their hands and favor outdoor activities over indoor ones in order to help stop transmission of the virus.

(Reporting by Michael Erman; editing by Diane Craft)

U.S. police unions approved for millions in pandemic aid

By Reade Levinson and Chris Prentice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – At least six police unions qualified for a combined total of $2 million to $4.4 million in emergency U.S. government loans intended to help small businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus lockdown, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The unions represent about 110,000 law enforcement officers in Philadelphia, Houston, New York state, Michigan and 11 Southern states.

All told, the six approved loans make up a small fraction of the program’s $521 billion in lending across 4.9 million loans as of June 30. The data released on Monday does not specify whether the loans were disbursed or if the unions will qualify for loan forgiveness.

Intended to help small companies and non-profit organizations keep their work forces employed during the coronavirus crisis, the federal Paycheck Protection Program allows employers with 500 or fewer workers hurt by the economic fallout of the pandemic to apply for a forgivable government-backed loan.

The six police unions typically receive 90% of their revenue from membership dues, according to tax records reviewed by Reuters, and thus, barring layoffs, would not be hurting for cash. All six unions have work forces of their own, providing support to members. Their combined loan applications said they sought to retain 331 jobs.

Four forces with unions that received loans – the New York State Police, Philadelphia Police Department, Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office and Houston Police Department – told Reuters they had not laid off or furloughed any employees during the pandemic, so their unions’ dues collections should not have suffered any significant hits.

It is clear the loan program, overseen by the Small Business Administration (SBA), gave out funds with few limits on who would benefit, said Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight.

“The onus was on the SBA to ensure we’re not just throwing public funds at entities that don’t need them,” she said. “It is common sense we’d prioritize the industries that need it most, and I don’t know that’s police unions right now.”

James Miller, spokesman for the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, said the union sought a loan in anticipation of potential revenue losses and possible layoffs amid prison closures. The union, which represents about 26,000 employees and retirees, qualified to borrow between $150,000 and $350,000.

“Based on current revenue projections for the remainder of the year, we anticipate returning the loan, as it is the prudent thing to do,” he said, in an email to Reuters.

The other police unions approved for loans did not return repeated emails and calls seeking comment.

Qualifying for a loan of between $1 million and $2 million was the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, which represents about 58,000 federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement officers in eleven states. The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 14,000 active and retired Philadelphia police officers and sheriff deputies, qualified to borrow between $350,000 and $1 million.

Authorized to borrow between $150,000 and $350,000 were the Police Officers Labor Council in Michigan, which represents about 350 sheriffs and police departments; the Houston Police Officers’ Union, which represents 5,300 Houston Police Department officers; and the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Home Association, a separate non-profit that maintains a lodge for union meetings.

The police unions were among at least 117 public and private sector unions that applied for loans through the program. The SBA did not release the names of recipients of loans less than $150,000.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, which represents about 900,000 members across industries including teaching, performing arts, hospitality, manufacturing and construction, said in an email Wednesday that it received $267,000 and plans to ask for loan forgiveness.

Many affiliate unions represent industries that have laid off members as a result of the coronavirus, Rick Bloomingdale, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president, said in an email. Faced with declining dues, he said, the union decided to seek aid.

“We made the decision to apply for the loan to keep our people employed.”

(Reporting by Reade Levinson in London and Chris Prentice in Washington, D.C.)

WHO to travelers: keep an eye on ‘anywhere and everywhere’ COVID-19

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization on Tuesday urged travelers to wear masks on planes and keep themselves informed as COVID-19 cases surge again in some countries, prompting new restrictions in places like Australia.

Spokeswoman Margaret Harris urged people not to be caught off-guard by resurgent local epidemics and quarantine measures, saying: “If it’s anywhere, it’s everywhere and people travelling have to understand that.”

“This virus is widespread and people have to take that very, very seriously.”

The WHO said last month that it would update its travel guidelines ahead of the northern hemisphere summer holidays but they have not yet been released.

In the meantime, travelers should “remember things will change, or may well change”, Harris said at a Geneva briefing.

“We’re seeing a lot of upticks, a lot of changes in different countries, countries that had successfully shut down their first transmission are seeing second upticks,” she added, mentioning Australia and Hong Kong.

Lockdown measures were reimposed in Australia’s second biggest city on Tuesday, confining Melbourne residents to their homes unless undertaking essential business, as officials scramble to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

The WHO’s previous guidance for travelers has included common-sense advice applicable to other settings such as social distancing, washing your hands and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Harris also proposed on Tuesday wearing a mask on planes, a measure which is already a requirement of many airlines.

“If you are flying, there is no way you can social distance in a plane, so you will need to take other precautions including using a face covering,” she said.

(Reporting by Emma Farge, Stephanie Nebehay and Michael Shields; Editing by Catherine Evans)